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If Chris Beard is found guilty, Texas will have to fire him

Beard was arrested early Monday on domestic violence charges after a disturbance call was made from a Tarrytown residence.
A woman told police that Beard choked and assaulted her.
Beard was released Monday on bond and was informed of a protective order prohibiting from coming within 200 yards of the alleged victim. He left the jail without comment with his lawyer.
Beard was hired to bring back to the program after predecessor Shaka Smart coached six seasons without an NCAA Tournament win. The current Horns reached No. 2 in the country before a loss to Illinois.

There are no winners in a domestic violence case.

Chris Beard’s livelihood hangs in the balance and while we don’t know all the facts surrounding the felony domestic violence charges leveled against the Texas men’s basketball coach, it’s safe to assume the last thing he would want is to be a distraction to the program that he has built.

More important, Texas athletic director Chris Del Conte had no choice but to suspend Beard until the school can get a clearer picture of what actually went down early Monday morning at the coach’s Tarrytown residence.

He’s presumed innocent until proven guilty, but if it’s determined that Beard committed an act of physical violence toward a family member, then Del Conte must act decisively and terminate Beard’s employment under the university’s personal conduct policy.

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For now, associate head coach Rodney Terry took the reins for Monday night’s overtime win over Rice and should remain in charge for the foreseeable future, and perhaps beyond. His boss’ name was plastered across the ticker on all the national sports talk shows on television and radio on Monday, and not for anything that happened on a basketball court. 

The author of a memorable Final Four run at Texas Tech in 2019 and the anointed savior of Texas basketball when he was hired here last season, Beard was placed in a Travis County jail cell at 4:18 a.m. Monday after being charged with ‘third-degree assault of a family/household member, impede breath circulation,” which is another way of saying choking.

If Del Conte fired football coach Tom Herman after four winning seasons and four bowl wins in four seasons, then Beard – if found guilty – must go. Herman had fallen out of favor with many of his players, but he had not run afoul of the law. And yet he still lost his job.

Del Conte declined my interview request through a university spokesperson on Monday, presumably while gathering more facts with UT legal counsel.  As more details come to light, Beard should clean up his personal issues before we can even begin talk about what happens next in his professional life, be it at Texas or elsewhere. 

Travis County jail video showed Beard in a jail uniform being given notice of a protective order, which means he is required to stay at least 200 awards away from the alleged victim. He was later released after posting a $10,000 bond, accompanied by lawyer Perry Minton. 

It’s a humbling life moment for the man who signed a five-year, $35 million contract with Texas last year. Still, this situation is much more important than money. It’s about doing what’s right for all involved, protecting the university’s reputation and that same university sending the right message of accountability to the community.

It goes without saying that any citizen taken into custody is presumed innocent until proven guilty, and Beard is no different. Minton told the American-Statesman on Monday that Beard is 100% innocent of all charges.

“He should have never been arrested,” Minton said. “The complainant wants him released immediately and all charges dismissed. It is truly inconceivable.”

I reached a receptionist at Minton’s law firm for further comment, but no return call was made as of Monday afternoon. 

If Beard indeed inflicted bodily harm on a family member, he will be prosecuted and Texas President Jay Hartzell and Del Conte must fire him. Accountability is everything, and that goes for a basketball coach making $5 million a season, the president of one of the most prestigious universities on the planet, the AD of the NCAA’s most lucrative athletic department in America, Steve the produce guy at H-E-B or even Statesman sports columnist Cedric Golden.

We all live under the same rules of law and are subject to the governance of such laws. The glass half-full part of me would love for this to come out to be one huge misunderstanding between family members, but the disturbance call was made for a reason.

Beard’s contract stipulates that he can be suspended or fired for conduct the university determines to be unbecoming or reflects poorly on the school or the system, including conduct “resulting in a criminal charge against Head Coach involving a felony or any crime involving theft dishonesty or moral turpitude.” Texas suspended him on Monday, about 90 minutes before tipoff.

It’s simple language that’s a part of every contract signed by most every coach in every college sport, but it’s something none of us could have ever imagined would possibly come into play in the infancy of just his second season on campus.

Beard, a former UT graduate assistant, guided the Red Raiders to a Big 12 regular-season championship in 2019 followed by a Final Four appearance in the NCAA Tournament, an accomplishment which earned him the AP national coach of the year.

Depending on whom you ask, the Texas Longhorns are the best team in college basketball, having been ranked No. 2 in the country before last week’s loss to Illinois at Madison Square Garden. 

His hire was deemed a coup for a program that didn’t record a single NCAA Tournament win in six seasons under Shaka Smart. Beard is a basketball winner who has always subscribed to a tough brand of ball while also preaching accountability and responsibility off the court. It’s his turn to practice what he has preached to his players.

This post appeared first on USA TODAY

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